My brain has been sucked into submission mode today. This is the time that my client has to cede some control and let me take the driver’s seat. It’s an exciting time, where every “yes, I’ll read” is imbued with hope.
Before we even get here, there’s lot of preparation.
First, I work with my clients to make sure the manuscript is really strong. I read as “first reader”, asking questions and making suggestions, fixing spelling, grammar, pointing out echoed language or gaps in the plot. This may take multiple drafts.
Second, the pitch. I want to create something that will entice editors to ask for the manuscript. This may be an edited version of the original query from the author or may be something written completely from scratch. And refined. And refined. I want a hook right at the beginning, not to bury the lede, to tell the reader why they should care and why they’ll want to read more.
Third, the editors. This takes time and research. I’ll scour editor bios, manuscript wish lists, recent deals, think of editors I’ve worked with, talked to, like on social media, who’ve edited books I like. I often make a list of imprints and try to find the perfect editors at each. And will check with my colleagues at the agency to see if they think someone might be better or has been overlooked. I’m looking for a big batch of editors. I may not be pitching to them all at once though, but may stagger some of the submissions.
Then I start pitching, and hope the editors agree to read the manuscript. They don’t always. That’s disappointing, but can be better because they’re not giving false hope when they know it won’t work for them or their imprint. I send the manuscript to the editors who agree to read, and tell my client which imprints are reading. Then I wait.
The wait can be days, weeks, or months. I do check in from time to time to see if they’re still reading, but give them a good chunk of uninterrupted time before I pester them. Because I know what it’s like to be in their shoes. Even if they read right away, they have to get other people to read if they like it. Hardly anyone is able to acquire a book when only one person likes it. But like Tom Petty says, “the waiting is the hardest part.”
There can be a LOT of waiting. The best advice I have for writers is to keep writing, to work on something new, to distract themselves somehow. It’s slow and painful for them, I know. But I’m on the journey with them.
Most editors do get back to you with an answer. Many times it’s a rejection, sadly. It may be from an editor or imprint that I think could be SO GREAT for my client. It’s such a disappointment, but all I can do is thank them for their time, and break the sad news to my client. Some give lots of great feedback, some just say it’s not right for their list. It’s really a personal decision for them, and very subjective. Other times I wait, and check in, and don’t manage to connect, and don’t quite know why.
Then I may send out to more editors. The author and I may work together on revising the manuscript first, if earlier editor feedback seems to warrant it. Some editors will say they’ll look again if we revise and resubmit (R&R), but there are no guarantees there and an author may not want to make those changes if their vision doesn’t coincide with the editor’s.
But then there are the times you get an offer, maybe more than one offer. That’s the best. The author gets to make the final call on whether or not to accept, but I certainly give my advice and try to negotiate the best terms I can for them.
What happens after the offer is accepted? Well, that, dear readers, is another post.